The Makings of a Minstrel (Badge)

First off, I’m delighted to finally be getting this project off the ground. Secondly, woof. This is tough stuff. I don’t know how these ladies did it back in the day without the internet.

My first badge that I picked out of Shawnte’s fabulous floppy hat was the Minstrel badge. OK, well…

First off, when I hear the word ‘minstrel,’ I think of:

1.) a British man in puffy short pants playing a stringed instrument

2.) a British chocolate/candy I’ve never seen IRL but I believe someone’s mentioned on a British comedy

3.) the British version of a ‘minstrel,’ which is a dated and now taboo Vaudevillian character in black face. This was also very much an American institution, but it lasted beyond the Civil Rights movement in England (into the 80’s in fact).

Ironic that one of the first things I ran into was racism when I took to task the first ‘requirement’ in earning this Minstrel badge.

#1. “Learn and sing with others the following songs, and be able to give sources for them (uh, the internet). a.) three American folks songs of different types b.) three folk songs from other countries c.) two art songs d.) two rounds or descants.”

Now I work in music, and think I know a fair amount about it, but I will say that a lot of this is Greek to me. I realize that most traditional folks songs, American or elsewhere, are something that’s a part of my blood. I know the melodies and most of the lyrics, yet know nothing about the songs themselves or where they come from. These are the kind of songs you hear in music boxes as a kid, sing in music class, or around a fire at summer camp. Flipping through piles of sheet music I found obvious (and somewhat forgotten) songs like ‘Camptown Races,’ ‘Goodnight Ladies,’ ‘Oh Susanna,’ ‘Amazing Grace,’ the list goes on.

As I dug deeper I also started to find some interesting relics from our folk-song loving American past such as ‘The Bonnie Blue Flag,’ a popular marching song for the Confederate troops during The Civil War, and a song about ‘darkies’ from 1906 which I can no longer find or remember the title of. Definitely an interesting part of our heritage and history, which I may or may not get into further once I knock my requirements out of the way.

I’ve chosen to start with ‘Little Brown Jug,’ which is a pretty harmless and adorable folk song about a man’s affinity for booze, so I can get down with that topic.  I’m learning it on the piano as well so I can also knock out #2. ‘Learn to play the accompaniment for one song (and one dance) for your troop.’ Still working on the rest.

Also incredibly confused about how to find anything on German minnesengers, what a descant or an art song really is, and how I’m going to throw a party with a Japanese theme within the next month, but I will get there and show that I can hold my own with these tough 1947 girl scout gals!

More singings to be sung soon.


  1. “Little Brown Jug!” I know how to play that! Well…sort of. Do you remember those tiny little handheld “pianos” that were popular in the 80s & 90s? They always came with tiny little songbooks and one of the songs I learned to peck out was “Little Brown Jug!” 222 333 7767 123 were the numbers of the keys, if I recall 🙂 Just imagine me singing along, “Two two two, three three three, seven seven six seven, one two three!”

  2. Of course, I only really know Little Brown Jug as a jazz number. It was sort of a signature tune for Glenn Miller in (as it happens) the 1940s – and it was incredibly popular. Your original scouts would probably know it like this:

  3. […] in NYC, but never had the chance to. I also wanted to do something completely different than my last badge, hands-on, and out of my comfort zone if possible. I never realized how much I’d learn. Not […]

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